Gettin’ Healthy Phase Two: Fasting Protocols

December 2, 2018    By: Geoff J @ 9:13 pm   Category: Health

In the first installment of this series I talked about how the first step I took to getting into better shape and cutting body fat was to start counting calories. That works. The problem is that if you do it wrong you’ll consistently be hungry and no one wants to live the rest of their lives feeling hungry. The persistent hunger is largely why my previous calorie counting forays worked for a while but ended up not lasting. Basically the normal pattern was I’d injure myself somehow, stop exercising, and with the extra calorie-burn from exercise gone from my counting equation I’d give up and stop counting calories since it was too easy to get into a calorie surplus daily with no exercise anyway. Then I’d go back to that 185-195 lb range I had drifted into over the years. Like I said, at just over 6’0″ I was never all that fat, I was just a bit… what’s the right word… Squishy? Flabby? Soft? (And for the record, the BMI scale indicates I am “overweight” at anything over 185 lbs. I know BMI gets a bad rap, but the fact is that most of us would benefit from believing it.)

Anyhow, I believe that trying time-restricted eating was a key ingredient this time to help the calorie counting stick and to me getting much better results this time around. More on that below.

Various Fasting Protocols

First of all, we Latter-day Saints know a bit about fasting. Most of us have been fasting at least once per month since we were wee Mormons. Turns out there are all sorts of ways one can fast, including the standard 20-24 hour no food or drink method I grew up with in the church. Here are some variations that get lumped under “fasting” when it comes to health.

1. Straight fasting

A little studying revealed to me that as long as you keep your sodium levels up (for electrolytes) and a few other things like magnesium and potassium you can fast (with water) for many days at a time. Our bodies are pretty good at keepin’ on it seems. I haven’t tried a long fast but I will fire up and occasional 24-48 hour fast now that I’ve been sold on some of the benefits of fasting, not the least of which is autophagy. It’s not always comfortable but the reported benefits make it worth trying I think.

2. Time-restricted eating

This is probably the most popular method of “intermittent fasting” these days. It basically means you do all of your eating for the day in a specified window of time. Probably the most popular version of this is an 8 hour feeding window per day with no calories the rest of the day. So for instance, maybe you skip early breakfast and do all of your eating for the day between 10:00 AM and 6:00 PM. Or maybe you go from Noon to 8:00 PM. Or maybe 6:00 AM to 2:00 PM works best. The hours you choose don’t matter much — the key is no calories outside of that eating window. Many folks will take this a step further and cut the feeding window to 6, 4, or 2 hours per day. With the One Meal A Day (OMAD) method having lots of champions — especially for when trying to cut fat.

The reported benefits of this kind of fasting are myriad. Just do a search on the term “intermittent fasting” in a search engine or YouTube and hundreds of results will pop up. But here are the things I personally like best about it:

    A. I just get less hungry. Especially now that my body has adapted to the eating window. I get hungry basically at 10:00 AM every morning because that’s when I normally start eating every day. Other than that I might have some mild hunger in evenings or just before 9:00 AM but it’s just that — mild.

    B. When I do get hungry I know it will pass and knowing when I’m eating next makes getting past any hunger waves way easier.

    C. It’s not that easy to massively overeat in a shorter feeding window. I mean you can do it — but it’s much harder than it is when you are grazing from 7:00 AM to 11:00 PM.
    D. My migraines have gone away. I don’t know which of the magical aspects of fasting made this happen but the migraines I used to have to stave off with Excedrin once or twice a week have basically gone away. Love that part.
    E. I haven’t had the bouts of melancholy/depression this year that used to come on for a month or so at a time. I just feel better.

I want to note that while I keep my eating window pretty similar most days, I am flexible about it. For instance if I know I am going out to a restaurant that night I’ll usually just hold off longer before I start eating that day. Or some days, like holidays, I’ll just scrap the eating window and pick things up again the next day. I don’t recommend being fanatically strict about the hours. The goal is to find something that is sustainable and fanatical hour watching is not sustainable long term.

3. Quasi-fasting (calorie restriction on certain days)

One form of “intermittent fasting” has people restricting calories to 400-600 per day periodically. I blogged about this some years ago. Some people do this every other day, some recommend it once or twice per week. I tried this back in 2013 and my problem with this approach was I got ravenously hungry when I tried it. In retrospect it was probably from trying to spread the 600 calories out throughout the day (thus never really entering a “fasted state”). Plus for my 600 calories I was eating too many carbs which spiked my insulin and made me way hungrier by the afternoon. If I were to do this again I’d just treat it as an OMAD day with low calories and would probably go straight protein and fat on the 600 calories to avoid insulin spikes. That would make it more of a real fast anyway.

I’ve learned fasting ain’t for everyone

The time-restricted version of fasting in conjunction with calorie counting has worked wonders for me. I’m back to my wedding weight and KJ and I got married back in 1992. But it doesn’t work for everyone. KJ tried time-restricted eating and hated it. Her hunger would get ravenous — especially late at night and it would interfere with sleep for her, which was already an issue. In the next installment I’ll talk about the approach that has worked wonders for her: The Keto Diet.

No Comments »

No comments yet.

Leave a comment

RSS feed for comments on this post.